This soul-warming Minestrone Soup is made with flavorful herbs, tender Italian sausage, your choice of pasta and tons of hearty vegetables. It's easy to make on the stove or in the slow cooker!
This Minestrone Soup is Better Than Olive Garden's!
Comfort food comes in many forms, and this hearty minestrone soup is one of our favorites. It has a rich, tomato-y broth that makes each bite a truly blissful experience. Combined with the meat, veggies and pasta, it's a nutrient-dense dish that will fill your belly and make you feel cozy as can be.
There may be a lot of ingredients packed into this soup, but preparing it couldn't be simpler. Whether you cook it on the stove or in the Crock Pot, this easy family dinner idea pleases even the pickiest eaters.
What is Minestrone Soup?
Minestrone soup is a traditional Italian appetizer that features beans, greens, onions, carrots, pasta, Parmesan cheese, a tomato-based broth and sometimes, meat.
This version includes Italian sausage to make it sufficient as a meal on its own! Though you could definitely serve smaller portions as an appetizer or side dish if you'd like.
One of the best things about soup is how customizable it is. You can load it up with whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand! Here's what I usually toss into this Italian classic. Make sure to scroll down to the recipe card for specific amounts.
- Italian Sausage: Casings removed.
- White navy beans and red kidney beans: Cannellini, great northern beans, and pinto beans all work well too. Whichever kind you use, rinse and drain them well.
- Vegetables: Celery, carrots, zucchini, onion, tomato, and garlic are all healthful, wholesome additions to minestrone soup.
- Beef Broth: I love making this soup with a savory beef broth base, but you can use chicken broth instead if desired.
- Sugar: Don't worry, this won't make your soup taste sweet – it's only there to enhance the other flavors.
- Herbs: Dried basil, oregano, dried thyme, dried rosemary, red pepper flakes and bay leaves.
- Parmesan Rind: This adds wonderful flavor to the broth!
- Pasta: You can leave out the noodles if you'd like. If you want to include them, I suggest using ditalini, farfalle or shells.
- Parmesan Cheese: Freshly grated, to garnish the soup.
Can I Switch Up the Veggies?
Traditional minestrone soup is pretty much alllllll about the vegetables. It is a great clean-out-the-fridge meal because you can use whatever leftover vegetables you have on hand.
Forgotten carrots at the back of the crisper, an extra yellow squash that's hanging out in the fridge, spinach from those giant tubs we all buy with the best intentions to use it all up but that we inevitably struggle to get through, a lonely potato from cold storage. It's all good.
How to Make Minestrone Soup with Italian Sausage
Once you brown the sausage with the onions and garlic, this recipe is just a matter of dumping your ingredients into a pot and letting the soup simmer to perfection. Everything cooks in the same pan!
Brown Sausage: In a large pot or dutch oven, brown the sausage with the onions and garlic over medium heat. Drain any grease that cooks off if necessary.
Add Everything But the Pasta: Add all of the remaining ingredients up through the Parmesan rind (if you have one on hand), and bring the soup to a boil.
Cover & Cook: Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low, then let the soup simmer for 1 hour, stirring it occasionally, until all of the veggies are tender.
Stir in Pasta: Remove the bay leaves and anything that remains of the parmesan rind, then stir in the pasta (if using) during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking so that it can cook through until it's al dente.
Enjoy! Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each serving with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Can I Make This Soup Ahead of Time?
To make your minestrone soup in advance, do not add the pasta. Let the completed soup cool, then store it in an airtight container in the fridge. If you cook and store the soup with pasta, the noodles will absorb liquid in the fridge and expand, soaking up the soupy broth.
When you're ready to enjoy your soup, cook the pasta by itself until it's al dente, adding a pinch of salt to the water for flavor. Drain the pasta, reheat each serving of soup in the microwave, then add in the noodles and serve!
You can also cook the soup and noodles separately, then store them each in their own containers in the fridge. Then when you're ready to eat some soup you can just spoon some of the cooked pasta into your bowl and reheat everything together in the microwave.
Tips for Success
Although this is an easy recipe, it never hurts to have a few tips up your sleeve! Here's what I recommend for the best bowl of minestrone:
- Drain the Sausage Grease: After you brown the sausage, you'll want to drain out any grease that it releases during the cooking the process. Simply scoop it out with a soup spoon and carry on (never pour hot grease down the drain).
- Cook the Soup Covered: If you leave your soup uncovered while it's simmering, too much liquid will evaporate. Keep it covered to achieve the proper consistency and the best flavor.
- Add the Pasta Toward the End: If you add the pasta to your soup at the beginning of the cooking process, it will become mushy by the end. Toss it in after the soup has been simmering for 40-45 minutes, then cook the pasta for the amount of time indicated on the package.
Add-Ins & Variation Ideas
There are plenty of different ways you could go about this recipe. Let's discuss some variation options and add-in ideas.
- Cook it in the Crock Pot: Brown the sausage as usual, then load up your slow cooker with everything but the zucchini, beans and pasta. Cook the soup on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Stir in the beans, zucchini and pasta during the last 30-35 minutes of cooking.
- Add More Vegetables: Green beans, yellow squash, butternut squash and spinach also taste amazing in this soup. I've also been known to add thinly sliced cabbage or even a spoonful of pesto. Just remember to add softer veggies toward the end of the cook time so they don't turn to mush.
- Make Vegetarian Minestrone Soup: Omit the sausage and replace the beef broth with vegetable broth. Now you've got a vegetarian masterpiece!
We love enjoying our minestrone soup with some crusty artisan-style bread, dipping it into that sumptuous broth for good measure. Heaven!
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Leftover soup should be refrigerated in an airtight container after it has fully cooled. Enjoy it within 4 days for the best results. Keep in mind that the longer it sits, the softer the pasta will get if you store your soup with the noodles.
You can reheat your soup over a low-heat stove or pop individual servings into the microwave. Your call! I do recommend covering your bowl with a microwave safe cover when reheating in the microwave. Pause halfway through and give everything a good stir to make sure your soup warms evenly.
Can I Freeze This?
Yes – transfer the cooled soup to a freezer-safe container, leaving at least 2 inches of free space at the top to allow for expansion. Frozen minestrone soup will last for up to 2 months. Thaw it out in the fridge overnight before you reheat it.
More Comforting Soup Recipes
Need some more cozy soups to get you through the winter? I've got you covered.
Easy Minestrone Soup
- Slow Cooker
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage casings removed
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 28 ounces diced tomatoes
- 15 ounces white navy, cannellini, or great northern beans rinsed and drained
- 15 ounces red kidney or pinto beans rinsed and drained
- 2 stalks celery diced
- 2 large carrots peeled and diced
- 2 small zucchini quartered and chopped (about 1 ½ to 2 cups)
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Parmesan rind
- 1 ⅓ cups pasta optional - ditalini, farfalle or shells
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
- In a large pot or dutch oven, brown the sausage with the onions and garlic over medium heat. Drain any grease that cooks off, if necessary.
- Add all remaining ingredients up through the Parmesan rind (if you have one on hand), and bring the soup to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low, then simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until all of the veggies are tender.
- Remove the bay leaves and anything that remains of the Parmesan rind and stir in the pasta, if using, during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking so that it can cook through until al dente.
- Serve with crusty bread and freshly grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top.
- Recipe adapted from Our Best Bites.
- Slow Cooker Method: Brown the sausage as usual, then add everything except for the zucchini, beans and pasta to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Stir in the beans, zucchini and pasta for the last 20-25 minutes of cooking.
- Storage: Refrigerate cooled soup in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Keep in mind that the longer it sits, the softer the pasta will get.
- Reheating: Warm soup over a low-heat stove or pop individual servings into the microwave.
- Freezing: Transfer cooled soup to a freezer-safe container, leaving at least 2 inches of free space at the top to allow for expansion. Frozen minestrone soup will last for up to 2 months. Thaw it out in the fridge overnight before reheating.
This post was originally published in February 2018. The photos and content were updated in April, 2022.